Boston’s Saturday night ugly belly flop, a team record 17 strikeouts and a near record setting no-hitter against five separate Detroit pitchers, has induced a Sunday morning hangover in New England and indeed across all Red Sox Nation. The Red Sox offensive juggernaut, rendered impotence by a quintet of Detroit hurlers, came to a screeching halt in game one. Ick. Pass the Pepto.
Of all the ugly stats in game one – and there were plenty – the most concerning has nothing to do with that game but rather the series. After failing to get to Tiger’s starter Anibal Sanchez and four Tiger relievers, the Red Sox now need at least two wins in four games against Tigers’ ace Max Scherzer (21-3, 2.90 ERA) and playoff reborn Justin Verlander to advance.
After a so-so 2013 season (13-12. 3.46 ERA), Verlander hog-tied the As in game five of the ALDS; an 8 complete inning, 111-pitch, 10 strike out, two-hit shut out. Verlander may not be able to reproduce magic at that level again but it’s a near certainty the Red Sox will not be seeing the .500 recrod regular season pitcher who struggled with all manner of mechanical and mental breakdowns.
MLB.com’s Jason Black summed up Detroit’s recent dominance nicely: “Combine Sanchez’s performance Saturday night with Verlander’s gem against the A’s in Game 5 of the AL Division Series, and Tigers starters have thrown 14 consecutive shutout innings on two hits with 22 strikeouts against two of the three most tenacious offenses in terms of working pitchers in the league.”
To be fair, it wasn’t like the Sox didn’t work Sanchez. They forced him to throw 116 pitches over his six innings of work. He threw a wild pitch. He walked six. But he also struck out 12. They simply never hit him.
To be certain Boston’s has it’s own problems to deal with that have recently been glaringly exposed when facing solid pitching. Mike Napoli appears to have reverted back to his mid-season whiffing ways, striking out seven times in his last 16 at bats in the ALDS and game one of the ALCS, hitting just .125 over that span. Stephen Drew has gone 2-18, an anemic .111, during the same stretch.
Perhaps Most concerning is Dustin Pedroia‘s lack of productivity in the playoffs. Boston’s generally steady Eddie is hitting just .211 in the post season, only 11 points higher than Will Middlebrooks‘ .200. Six of Boston’s 11 regulars are batting below .250 in the playoffs. They got away with against a clearly inferior Tampa Bay Rays team. This can’t continue for another minute against a Tiger’s pitching staff primed to go a big run.
PrimeSport has MLB playoff tickets available for tonight’s game so make sure to grab a few to cheer on the Sox against Scherzer this evening. A win will go a long way in avoiding a dire situation against Verlander in in Detroit for Game 3.